Trusty John

Real Name


First Appearance


Created by

German Folklore


A king on his deathbed orders his servant, Trusty John, not to let his son see a certain room, which holds a portrait of a princess.

When the prince comes to power as the new king, he forces his way into the room. Instantly, he falls in love with the princess. Her country had been at war with his, and the portrait stems from betrothal negotiations that had fallen through, and the king does not know how to win her. Trusty John tells him to prepare a ship with all manner of rich treasure, and then either sails with it himself, or has the king sail with him, to her country. The princess is lured aboard by the goods, and the ship sets sail, carrying her off.

While they travel, John hears three ravens. One says that as soon as they reach shore, a horse will come; if the king mounts it, it will carry him off or dash him and the princess to pieces. The solution is for someone to kill the horse, but anyone who reveals this by stating it out loud would have his legs turn to stone up to the knees. The second raven says that the king would be killed by wine at the wedding feast if it were not dashed to the ground, or that he would be burned up by a wedding garment if it was not burned. Whoever says so would turn to stone to his waist. The third raven says that the princess would faint and die unless someone draws three drops of blood from her right breast; or a dragon would attack their bridal chamber and unless driven off, kill them. True to form, whoever states this would turn entirely to stone.

John prevents all three fates. For the first two, the king trusts that John has acted in his service; but for the third, the king decides to execute him. At the place of execution, John tells the story of the ravens and turns progressively to stone.

In time, the queen bears twin sons. The king and queen learn that if they kill the boys and rub John's statue with their blood, he would come to life again. When the queen agrees to the sacrifice, John immediately comes back to life, the curse broken, and as a reward for the king's loyalty, the two children are restored to life as well. The king and queen live happily until their deaths.


Only the general myth of the character is in the public domain. Modern-day versions (such as the character who appears in Vertigo Comics' Fables series) are NOT.

See Also

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